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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Note to stanza

1. 13. Eyvindr skáldaspillir Finnsson, 3. Lausavísur, 4 [Vol. 1, 219]

[5] -spenni ‘-grasper’: In order to explain this agentive (NN §1057B; ÍF 26; LP: auðspennir), eds have assumed a sense of ‘destroy’ for the verb spenna. But occurrences in the senses of ‘consume, use up, waste’ (hence possibly ‘destroy’) are restricted to a few late attestations in homiletic contexts (Fritzner: II. spenna 2) and appear to represent a development from OE (ā)spendan ‘spend, consume, exhaust’ or other WGmc derivatives of Lat. expendere ‘to spend’ (cf. AEW: spenna 4). Meanwhile, spenna as used in skaldic kennings is most probably from an entirely different etymon (< Gmc *spannian), with a sense of ‘cause to span, embrace, encompass’. From the large mass of attestations it is clear that the semantic range of this spenna covers the concepts ‘clasp, span, enclose, embrace, grasp, catch, gain’ (CVC: spenna; Fritzner: I. spenna; AEW: spenna 2). The basis for the kenning is therefore probably that the successful warlord and his following grasp or seize valuable items, e.g. weapons, from the opposing forces as plunder (cf. Gsind Hákdr 4/3, Anon Liðs 3/7, Sigv Nesv 10/1-4; Price 2000a).


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